Life

13 Reasons to Live: Lest We Forget

For the past thirteen weeks, I’ve been focusing on the many reasons we have to live. It all started with an article I read about the potential negative repercussions of the show 13 Reasons Why, and how its depiction of suicide could influence those struggling with suicidal tendencies to take their own lives. My desire has been to help people to look beyond, to remember all we have to live for.

The world gives us so much to be depressed about, if that’s all we focus on. Even people of faith get depressed, because we see the world as it could be and should be and is not. When we lose focus on the hope we have, it’s tempting to wallow in the mire of misery.

If you are among those who have considered leaving this world behind, please take these words to heart. If someone you love is battling with thoughts of ending their life, please help them to reconsider. The list below contains highlights from the past thirteen weeks. I’ve put them all together in hopes of saving someone’s life. And more important, of helping you find the only one who can truly save you both for now and for eternity…

Reason #1: Life is Worth Holding On To
While we could use the evil of the world to deny purpose for life, what about the good? A history of suffering men and women found enough good in this world to keep living, to keep moving forward. Would we be here now, if not?

Reason #2: It’s Not About Me
Maybe if we adopted this grand mission of putting even the smallest pieces of our own corners of this world back together, we would find our purpose is far greater than ourselves. And we would find that is more than enough reason…to live.

Reason #3: The Promise of Redemption
We may think that all the suffering life brings is reason enough to end our own. But the knowledge that we have a God who is able to bring beauty from ashes, joy from tears, and praise from despair is reason enough to live.

Reason #4: This Ain’t Hollywood
The most influential, significant person in history lived the most humble life and died the most despised of deaths, giving not just hope…but LIFE, abundant and everlasting, for the world. For generations to come. In his eyes, you ARE significant. And in his hands, you FIND significance—not in pursuit of the world’s applause. But in living the life you were created to live, surrendering to sacrifice for those in your own sphere of influence, however small it may be.

Reason #5: Tenacious Beauty
Where there is beauty, there is hope. And if there is hope, there is reason to live.

Reason #6: It’s Not Over
What carries us through the daily warzone? The knowledge that we’re in the midst of redemption’s story, in which the Author of all life is the Author of our lives, working every scene together for good.

Reason #7: There is Freedom
God our Father understands our daily battle with temptation, and yet, because he has overcome, he is able to help us to overcome.

Reason #8: You Are Not Forgotten
If you feel forgotten, know that there is a God whose name is El Roi, “the God who sees me.” When no one else sees. When no one else cares to see. His eyes invade our hearts with light powerful enough to split the darkness and birth new life.

Reason #9: You Can Be Repurposed
Nothing is useless, and nothing is wasted. In the hands of a master craftsman, even what most would view as junk can be turned into a priceless treasure. A skilled artist can transform the most useless items into something of matchless worth. And that’s what our loving God is able to do with the most hopeless pieces of our lives.

Reason #10: It’s Not in Vain
The things of the earth are fading, failing—a mere chasing after the wind. But it is NEVER in vain to pursue the things of heaven while here on earth. Because there will come a day when we will finally see eternity. And it’s gonna be worth it.

Reason #11: We’re Not Home Yet
When we follow Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life, we have hope of eternal life in heaven, where there’s “no more death, mourning, crying, or pain.” The best things on earth are mere shadows of the best things of heaven.

Reason #12: You’re Here for a Purpose
God has placed you here on this earth for a purpose, and part of that purpose is to contribute your gifts, your personality, your talents, and your life to community. You are needed and you are necessary. You’re here in this generation for a reason.

Reason #13: You’re Not Alone
Unfortunately, there is no promise that life will be pain and problem-free. If anything, we’re told, “in this world, you will have trials.” Yet we can’t neglect the words that follow: “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Freedom comes in knowing we’re not alone in the midst, and there is one who is stronger, and able to carry our every burden.

As I’ve said before, please take these words to heart. Print them, share them, remember them. Always know you are loved, you are needed, and the God who created you is able to keep you.

 

Photo Credit: Free photo: Snake River, Waterfall, Nature – Free Image on Pixabay …

Advertisements

13 Reasons to Live: Not Alone

I bring my bookbag with me wherever I go under the faulty notion I might have time to read while the kids are at the park, or at their appointment, or wherever else we may be. Last week we were at the playground when we discovered a nearby pathway, which I presumed would be a short distance and not worth running my bag to the car first. A half mile into our journey, we realized the path looped the entire lake. Achiness nagged my back from the now unnecessary load of unread treasures. My husband and kids were well ahead of me when I considered turning back, only to realize it would be the same distance returning to the car as it would to complete the loop.

After about a mile, I finally asked my husband if he could carry my bag for me. Relief flooded over me when the weight of my baggage finally released. Something about walking free from the heaviness of my belongings allowed me the liberty to enjoy my surroundings. A few miles into our trek, my daughter and I were well ahead of my husband. By now, he was not only carrying my bookbag, but my son as well. And my daughter was asking if he could carry them both.

What a picture of what God does for us! He invites us on a journey, our path encircled by beauty and undiscovered wonders. We launch a few cautious steps into the adventure only to realize we’re burdened by all we carry with us—whether it be our past, our habits, our bad decisions, our broken relationships, or anything that weighs heavy upon us. Thinking we’re alone midway through, we consider turning back.

But when we finally humble ourselves and ask for the help we’ve needed all along, things start to change.

Our Savior is so willing to take our burdens from us, he identifies himself as a burden bearer. Everything that hinders, everything that holds us back from life that is truly life…he’ll take it all. His load is easy and his burden is light, freeing us for the path marked out for us.

Unfortunately, there is no promise that life will be pain and problem-free. If anything, we’re told, “in this world, you will have trials.” Yet we can’t neglect the words that follow: “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Freedom comes in knowing we’re not alone in the midst, and there is one who is stronger, and able to carry our every burden.

My friend, do not give up on life, thinking you’re alone and forgotten. There is a God—the Creator of heavens and earth, who knit you together for a purpose. And he will walk with you, carrying all that weighs you, holding you if that’s what it takes. All you need to do is cry out for help from the one who is able, willing, and ready to intervene. Release your burdens to him.

 

Photo Credit: Path – Free images on Pixabay

13 Reasons to Live: Longing for More

It was sunny, a pleasant day for a picnic. We were surrounded by people and laughter and food. The kids were enjoying themselves on the playground. And I wanted to cry.

Our friends had invited us to this African community get-together, where ethnic music soared joyfully from the loudspeaker, competing only with the friendly conversations at the surrounding tables. The warmth of the weather was matched only by the warmth of the relationships. There were still crowds gathered beneath the pavilion when we finally left, after the sun had disappeared behind the trees.

It’s been a few weeks since that day, and I still haven’t quite pinpointed what it was that triggered me to near tears in the midst of it all. In some ways, it was the beauty of the day stirring up a longing in me. You know, that empty ache in the soul that can’t quite be explained.

What struck me most, beyond the abundant variety of delicious entrees, the relentlessly happy music and the overwhelming number of people in attendance, was the strong sense of community, and the joy in the midst. The people were open, welcoming, loving, embracing. Everyone seemed to enjoy one another’s company.

In the midst of the busyness of modern culture, we’ve lost this appreciation of community.

I think much of the depression we face today is due to this lack. We bury ourselves in work and technology and things, all in unconscious effort to avoid what we most desperately need. In our pursuit of the world’s definition of success, we fail in what’s more important: relationships. If you find yourself longing for more, maybe part of what you’re longing for is meaningful connection with others.

We were created for community. And we’ll be lost until we find it.

Community is not just being under one roof at the same time. It’s sharing in one another’s joys and sufferings. It’s bearing one another’s burdens. From what I know of those who gathered at the picnic that day, they’ve celebrated together, but they’ve also suffered together. And that suffering builds strength in relationships. And overcoming together breeds genuine joy.

God has placed you here on this earth for a purpose, and part of that purpose is to contribute your gifts, your personality, your talents, and your life to community. You are needed and you are necessary. You’re here in this generation for a reason. Ask God to show you that reason, and to fill your life with his purposes. Ask him to lead you to strong, healthy, life-transforming community.

And when you find it, you’ll find you have reason to live.

13 Reasons to Live: We’re Not Home Yet

I had no idea how expensive frozen yogurt could be until recently. We received a buy one, get one free coupon in the mail, so we took the kids on what we thought would be a low-cost excursion. “Fill your cups with whatever flavors and toppings your little hearts desire,” I told them. The sign above the register said it was only $5 per cup, and with the coupon it seemed a reasonable deal for all you can eat froyo.

The kids had no trouble obliging, filling their cups to overflowing with an interesting mix of ingredients. It was all good and fun until we got to the cash register. “Place the cups on the scale, ma’am,” the cashier ordered. When she read the final cost, I couldn’t help but ask if she was joking. It turns out they charged per ounce. That $5 per cup sign? It was for an empty, take-home souvenir cup. The final cost for our order, including the coupon, could have bought us a few gallons from the grocery store.

While I recovered from sticker-shock, the kids enjoyed their small taste of heaven. A few bites in they were complaining of tummy-aches. A few minutes, later, we were heading home.

Our experience got me thinking of how temporary everything is on this earth. The good and the bad. The painful and the enjoyable. Everything is fleeting. Even the best of life fails to merit our investment.

The temporal nature of things can be a little depressing. Why can’t what’s good last a little longer? Why can’t it equal the price we pay for the enjoyment?

It helps to remember that this is not our ultimate home. All the good we encounter here is but a taste of greater things to come. And the pain? It’s but a passing reminder that our heavenly treasure is held in jars of clay.

If it seems life’s not worth living due to the fleeting nature of good, take heart. If it seems not worth the effort to live another day because all your investment yields little return, keep in mind. We’re not home yet.

When we follow Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life, we have hope of eternal life in heaven, where there’s “no more death, mourning, crying, or pain.” The best things on earth are mere shadows of the best things of heaven. From a spoonful of your favorite frozen yogurt to a vacation at the most beautiful destination you can imagine, nothing can compare to the everlasting perfection of heaven. Nothing here will last, but all points us toward the things that do.

Receive every small blessing as a taste of the promise of our final home. Let every investment we make be for those things that truly last. And may the hope of heaven penetrate our hearts with purpose, the constant cognizance that if we have breath, there is reason to live.

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)

Photo Credit: Free photo: Ozean, Sea, Travel, House, Summer – Free Image on …

13 Reasons to Live: It’s Not in Vain

Blog_FootprintsBeachI love a man named Asaph. Yes, he lived about 3,000 years ago and no, I’ve never met him. He’s one of the lesser-known writers of the psalms. Lesser, I say, because we all know about King David and tend to mistakenly attribute all the psalms to him. But Asaph had a lot to say, and that’s what I love about him. And when it comes to those gut-wrenchingly honest psalms, Asaph’s are just about as raw as they get.

Psalm 73 is one of my favorites. Here, Asaph divulges his struggles, zeroing in on a time when his “foot almost slipped.” He’d fallen into the common trap of envy, though in this case he envied the wicked—not because they were wicked, but because they seemed to prosper in all they did.

Why were those whose hearts were bent on evil so graced with problem-free lives? They did whatever they wanted, hurting whoever they wanted along the way, and yet they lived on, “free from common human burdens.”

Oh, how I relate to Asaph. Sometimes, I echo his lament, “Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.”

I echo this, but I know in my heart that Asaph moved beyond that lament as must I. His thinking was mired in despair until he “entered the sanctuary of God.” It was there, he understood.

There is an end to evil. Though it seems to rise triumphant, it will not prevail, nor those who revel in it.

An eternal perspective transforms our narrow, earth-bound perspective. It elevates our thinking, to remember, “my flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

The things of the earth are fading, failing—a mere chasing after the wind. But it is NEVER in vain to pursue the things of heaven while here on earth. Because there will come a day when we will finally see eternity. And it’s gonna be worth it.

“Life will always seem unfair when we measure it by earthly standards of health, wealth and power. But when we encounter God in a personal, intimate way…we can gain a heavenly perspective. We’ll begin to see the other part of the picture—that the rewards of this life are temporary and, as a matter of fact, can even hinder us from discovering what is truly important.” (Philip Yancey & Tim Stafford)

Photo Credit: Free stock photo of sea, beach, footprint www.pexels.com

13 Reasons to Live: Repurposed

Blog_Repurposed01My cousin has an amazing gift. She’s an artist who takes things the average person would view as worthless and turns it into something beautiful. When she talks about purchasing old furniture, scraps, and other “junk,” she gets excited. Her mind is filled with ideas of how she can repurpose these items, making them valuable again.

In her skillful hands, an old window frame becomes a unique display for cherished family photos. Pieces of scrap metal become eye-catching wall decor. She recently turned an old, broken-down piano into a desk and the spare parts into works of art.

Her work reminds me of another artist I know. This masterpiece-maker formed the galaxies and all the wonders of earth in their beauty and intricacy, and yet his greatest endeavor involves repurposing broken-down lives.Blog_Repurposed

The Bible is filled with stories of people whose lives were messed up beyond repair, yet God intervened, taking their ashes and turning them into something beautiful. Sara was barren, yet she became a great matriarch. Ruth was a widow who became ancestor to the greatest of kings. Esther was an orphan turned queen who saved a nation from destruction. Mary Magdalene was a prostitute who became a humble, respected servant.

As I’ve served God through the years, I’ve seen drug addicts healed, now changing their communities for good. I’ve seen gang members become warriors for peace instead of evil. Marriages on the brink of divorce, restored. Fatherless children adopted into loving families. People in the throes of depression and despair, filled with hope. All in the hands of a loving God.

Nothing is useless, and nothing is wasted. In the hands of a master craftsman, even what most would view as junk can be turned into a priceless treasure. A skilled artist can transform the most useless items into something of matchless worth. And that’s what our loving God is able to do with the most hopeless pieces of our lives.

Knowing this is true, we have more than enough reason to live.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” (Isaiah 61:1,3)

Photo Credits: Aisle 6 by Tracy Linson Neutzmann

13 Reasons to Live: Not Forgotten

Have you ever felt invisible? I have. At least once a day. Often more times than I can count in one day. Completely and utterly invisible.

It happens in my classroom. I say something with what I believe is enough volume for the entire room to hear, but my students continue in their routine as if I’d said nothing at all. The other day one of my preschoolers seemed excessively absorbed in her activity and oblivious to me calling to her, “Sweetie, do you even hear me? I’ve said your name at least seven times.” “No, teacher,” she replied. “You only said it three times. I’ve been counting.”

It’s no different at home, with my kids. Time and again, I make a request to my son or daughter while they’re engrossed in play, unaware of my invisible plight. One time I asked my son why he wasn’t listening, and he told me, “Wait a minute, Mommy. I can’t hear you. Let me get these fruit snacks out of my ears.”

There have been times when I’m pouring out my heart to my sweet husband and he turns up the radio to hear the sports score. And times when I’ve shared an entire story at a family gathering only to find no one was listening. Or times when I’m in the store waiting for help and the clerk walks right past me to the person across the aisle.

It’s one thing to feel invisible, another to feel forgotten. I remember years ago, desiring children while others years younger than me had more kids than they could handle. And after, going through the long, lonely, and painful adoption process…twice. Even today, my heart now filled full with the joy of motherhood, I find myself waiting in new ways, for different things—sometimes tempted to think I’ve been forgotten.

What carries me in the midst is the reminder that I’m not invisible or forgotten before my father in heaven. Even the ones I love most deeply here on earth will fail me. There are times when they won’t hear me, or see me, or know what’s going on inside of me. And I will fail them in the same way. But my savior has carved me on the palms of his hands, scars from the nails which held him to the cross.

He knew me before the beginning and he will carry me through to the end. Not a tear goes uncollected, not a prayer goes unheard, no matter how long I wait in the in-between, or no matter that the answer may be no or not now. He always hears and ever answers, even when it’s not the answer I desire or expect, I know I’m not forgotten.

If you feel forgotten, know that there is a God whose name is El Roi, “the God who sees me.” When no one else sees. When no one else cares to see. His eyes invade our hearts with light powerful enough to split the darkness and birth new life. Knowing we are seen, knowing we are heard…knowing we are KNOWN is reason enough to live.

 

Comic Credit: Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes

Photo Credit: Alone, Man – Free images on Pixabay